Monday, May 21, 2018


UPDATED:  TUESDAY (7:37 AM) Added material "text" color change & "background" highlighted.





It appears that the folks at the Pro Football Hall of Fame (National Football Museum, Inc) keep digging financial holes for themselves.

Within the past few days a highly reliable source is telling The Stark County Political Report  that
the HOF-VP is some $12 million to $14 million in debt to SITETECH, INC  (unconfirmed, thought be about $7 million), Beaver Excavating (unconfired) and derivatively Welty Construction said to be owed to pay for site development of a hotel with the the project complex but is now two years, more or less, behind the announced "with great fanfare" start date.

With all the hubbub that has been going on with the HOF-VP financial nightmare
  • (started out at $480 million; now at $1 billion plus, and the stadium started out at $24 million is now at $171 million, perhaps, even more)
it appears that Canton mayor Thomas M. Bernabei teaming up with others in Canton government (see Bernabei quote below) to make Canton at least whole if not getting the better end of its financial connection to the Hall of Fame Village LLC folks.

That $5 million in the view of the SCPR was pretty much a former mayor William J. Healy, II (aided and abetted by Canton City Council) taxpayer money giveaway for a project that from the get-go had very little chance of returning much if anything on the investment (ROI) in the HOF-VP.

But with the election of the newly "independent" Thomas M. Bernabei (opposed by most of Canton City Council when he decided to quit the Democratic Party and run as an independent against Healy in 2015) turned a once bleak picture on ROI for Canton into a wildly positive one.

The SCPR is very familiar with the government leadership skills of Tom Bernabei.  Though known to be a taskmaster, he has the full confidence of most of those who work for units of government that he is a leadership figure in.  He is far and away the most capable government figure in all of Stark County political subdivision government.  It appears that only this blogger recognized his qualities as a specially-gifted leader early on.

And Stark County ALMOST missed out on this gem of a leader.

Stark Countians ought to be sending Stephen Todd a thank you! for entering the 2012 race.

For it is clear to the SCPR had he not been in the race, Jackson Township trustee  and Republican James N. Walters would have gotten the bulk of if not all of the votes and we likely would never heard of Thomas M. Bernabei in Stark County elective politics again.'

He and Commissioner Janet Creighton transformed a Stark County crisis in county government (Zeiglergate, per Craig T. Conley) into a restoration of trust and confidence within 18 months of their being elected commissioners in November, 2010 as evidenced by a 1/2 sales tax increase passed by Stark Countians in the November, 2011 general election.

So with Bernabei at the helm, Canton government getting "made whole" or, better yet, "coming out ahead" over and above the $5 million investment made on September 4, 2105 should be no surprise.

Bernabei is a "planner extraordinaire" when compared to Chamber of Commerce president Denny Saunier.

To say it again, the mayor is much more skilled that Saunier himself and his friends at the Professional Football Hall of Fame and the folks down at 500 Market Avenue, South in planning under difficult circumstances.  Of course, Bernabei had no choice in the matter once he decided to run for mayor, but in getting elected he took on decades and decades of Canton government mismanagement.

 (see this LINK for why the SCPR is taking on Saunier in this blog in his chiding Stark County officials to be "planners")

Saunier et al apparently bought into HOF president/CEO C. David Baker's phantasmagorical dream without Baker having any plan whatsoever.  Not a word of criticism of Baker by Saunier.

Just think of it.  The gall of it all.  Point your finger at others when you yourself were endorsing a project that seemingly started on a hope and a prayer.

Just as an aside, reports that the SCPR has received on the 2018-104th Annual Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce is that it was one big "suck up" to the Klein brothers that brought "embarrassing" grimaces to the faces to many of those in attendance.

Picture it, Canton, Ohio toadying up to big city financial brokers.

It appears that in bringing the M. Klein Company into the financial mix, the HOF project is now reduced to "a hope and a prayer."

The 104th appears to have been set up in hopes that the Kleins will turnout to miracle workers.  So long as that they do it with "private" money, Stark Countians should be just fine with the effort and the SCPR wishes HOF Village LLC well.

Nonetheless, there is substantial taxpayer money and the SCPR for one will be bird-dogging local officials on accountability for how those hard earned dollars are spent.

Who was present in terms of local officials at the 104th who had to be shaking their collective heads at fawning, sycophantry and the like that seemed to be the "order of the night among the principals giving talks at the event.
  • Canton mayor Thomas Bernabei,
  • Canton deputy mayor Fonda Williams
  • Canton Ward 4 councilwoman and council vice president Chris Smith,
  • Representative Thomas West (49th Ohio House District)
  • Scott Oelslager (29th Ohio Senate District)
  • Representative Kirk Schuring (not present but represented by his wife)
  • Congressman Bob Gibbs (7th Congressional District which include most of Stark County)
  • Stark County Auditor Alan Harold
  • Stark County Commissioner Bill Smith
  • Trustee Scott Haws (Plain Township)
  • Trustee John Sabo (Plain Township)
Michael Klein is said to have talked about looking for a home in Stark County.


A guy who by his own word reportedly says he travels about 250 days a year.


The SCPR requested and was denied access to the event so Stark Countians could get an accurate picture of the proceeding inasmuch as taxpayer money being put into the HOF-VP at the behest of Repository publisher Jim Porter, Saunier and HOF president/CEO C. David Baker.

Of course the foregoing trio would not want the SCPR at the event.

Wouldn't it be telling (pictures coupled with sound [unedited] tell no lies) to see the fumbling and bumbling around on the part of folks who fancy themselves as premier Stark County leaders?

Want some proof that Team Bernabei (see list below as provided by the mayor) likely "did a number" on the HOF negotiators?

Take a look at one of two projects that Bernabei et al wrangled out of the self-style sophisticates that run Hall of Fame Village LLC.

While Mayor Bernabei is correct that the project was negotiated in September, 2017 and begun in the Fall of 2017; it recently became more prominently visible to Cantonians/Stark Countians as one drives down Fulton Drive Northwest just southeast of Interstate 77.  (Note:  another project - Weiss Park [off 25th Street NW) is also part of the "windfall" for Cantonians)

Moreover, it needs to sink in with Cantonians what a superlative job the Bernabei administration is doing with the HOF-VP leadership in making the $5 million pay off for Canton.

And there is more.

The SCPR thinks $3.8 million cited return on investment is understating substantially the return to Canton.

Here is a copy of the SCPR's first e-mail to the mayor:

From: Martin Olson [] 
Sent: Friday, May 18, 2018 10:05 AM
To: Thomas Bernabei
Subject: $3.8 million of work done for Canton government by HOF?


A source has just told me that the HOF-VP folks have or are in the process of doing a Canton Parks parking lot and related projects which reportedly will amount to some $3.8 million in value to Canton with an attendant condition that the HOF have use of the parking lot.

First, is this report accurate?

If so, could you (or the appropriate person within the Bernabei administration) flesh out the details for the SCPR.

Martin Olson

Bernabei's first response:

Yes, that is happening. 

But it is not new news; the contract was signed September 25, 2017; the work commenced last Fall; stopped over the winter months; and now being finished in the next couple of months. I am attaching the complete contract, with designs attached. 

The City is a signatory to the contract but it is primarily a Board of Park Commissioners’ contract since Parks has direct supervision over Stadium Park. I can answer some questions; but Doug Foltz, Parks Superintendent and/or JR Rinaldi, President of the Board, would have more information. Thank you. Tom

Here is the copy of the contract that Mayor Bernabei refers to in the above-email.

Please read the contract in full!

$3.8 million in value?

Looks like its substantially worth more than that to the SCPR.

The SCPR did follow up on the first Bernabei response with this:

It appears that Canton is making back if not exceeding its $5 million investment in the HOF-VP.

Would you agree with such an assessment?

It is being suggested rather strongly to me that getting the HOF folks to agree to do the Parks project was either pushed by and/or negotiated by Tom Bernabei.

Is the suggestion well-founded or not?

Bernabei's response:

Good morning Martin,

The better answer is that this was truly a team effort which resulted in a good contract providing for important and valuable  improvements to Stadium Park (and Weiss Park.)  

We are receiving significant capital infrastructure improvements, good compensation and needed upgrades. 

It is also a cooperative agreement which helps the HOF with parking needs during its construction phase. 

The key people on the city side were[:] 
  • John Mariol, 7th Ward City Council, whose ward abuts Stadium Park, who took a leading role in this contract and its negotiation and approval; 
  • the Parks Commission (Andy Black, President, Mike Hanke and Sam Sliman); 
  • Derek Gordon, Parks Director; 
  • Dan Moeglin, city engineer; 
  • Donn Angus, city planner; ... 
  • Kris Bates, and 
  • Joe Martuccio from the Law Department who both worked on the contract and underlying legal questions. This took a lot of thought, work, negotiations and public meetings to put this together. Tom
Thomas M. Bernabei
Mayor, City of Canton

John Mariol?

Interesting to the SCPR.

He was one of the most active and vocal of opponents when Bernabei took on Healy as was the SCPR's highly respected Edmond Mack.

That Bernabei lauds Mariol for his role in the negotiations with the HOF Village LLC on the Park benefits shows how gracious the mayor is.

One of the reasons that The Report takes a dim view of partisan political party politics is the inability of some partisan elected/appointed officials, to rephrase 7th congressional district Democratic candidate Ken Harbaugh's campaign theme (Country over Party), to put "community interests over political party interests).

Mariol and Mack succumbed to the likes of  Dems' party chair Phil and his highly partisan brother  Louis who continues to make noises about running for mayor of Canton in 2019.

What a catastrophe Louis would be as mayor in terms of being a captive of the Stark County Democratic Party interests!

Mariol, not really a surprise.

Good for Stark County that he was not elected as commissioner (against Richard Regula in 2016).

Mariol originally agreed to appear on a SCPR "for the voter's benefit" side-by-side videotaped interview in the 2016 campaign, but all a sudden pulled out.  Regula:  an incumbent and a man who doesn't the the exposure was "willing, ready and able" to go head-to-head with Mariol.


Likely because Dem party leaders told him to or some other political consideration (like the inability to handle the incisive questioning of the SCPR)?

A guy with very little political/government experience thinks he can skate untested into a countywide governance position?

Apparently, he and the Stark Dems' leadership hasn't gotten the message:  "A Canton-based Democrat cannot win countywide 'in a two person race' UNLESS running as an incumbent."

Now Mariol says he sees what a first-rate leader Tom Bernabei is.

Having opposed Bernabei initially in favor of Healy, doesn't one have to question his judgement?

It appears to the SCPR that Mariol is more attuned to his political party's interest and derivatally his personal political interest than voters having the benefit of him his answering incisive questions based on his performance as a public office and his philosophy of governance.

Contrary to what most people think, political party philosophy can and does seep into decisions made at the county, city, village and board of education level of government UNLESS officials stand back and look at the basis upon which a decision is being made.

Political party points of view are unacceptable.  Only overall taxpayer/citizen interests are valid considerations.

Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei, even before he officially became an independent, could separate from political party interests.

He proved that ability is spades in taking on the Stark County Democratic Party establishment!

Another quality that Tom Bernabei has is his eagerness to recognize those in government who contribute to his success as a leader in government.

Healy could not do the same when Bernabei was his Service/Chief of Staff in 2008/2009.  After about a year on the job, Healy fired Bernabei and thereby ensured that even in a heavily Democratic city it was just a matter of time until he failed as mayor.

Had he been able to recognize the huge talent he had in Bernabei, he could have saved himself the disaster in governance that befell him and which Canton endured for eight years on top of the decades of Canton governance mismanagement that preceded even him.

Had the self-serving-politico William J. Healy, II been able to sublimate his ego and abide Bernabei's "tough 'political' love," Canton would be eight years down the road to recovering from decades of Canton decline.

And, of course, nobody should forget that the Stark County "organized" Democratic Party was willing to put the Healy/Democratic Party interests over the interests of the "Hall of Fame" city for at least "four more years!"

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